French Cuisine without the
La Dijonaise serves up affordable
French food in a casual atmosphere.
By Geoff Maleman
When Pascal Donzel came to the United States from
his native France in 1992, he arrived with little
in his pocket, the prospect of a job helping to
open a bakery in Long Beach and not a word of English.
He could only say Marlboro Lights,
joked his wife, Thanh.
As it turned out, Pascals new boss was Thanhs
We met and he never left, Thanh said.
Its one of those romantic love stories.
And if the French are famous for love, they are
also famous for croissants, pastries and high brow
cuisine with prices to match.
Pascal and Thanh, however, decided that when they
opened their restaurant, La Dijonaise, in the Helms
Bakery Building nearly three years ago they would
serve fine French food, but without all the snooty
attitude and high prices.
I try to keep costs down and stay affordable,
said Pascal, who does much of the restaurants
grunt work himself. Yesterday,
I was in at 4 a.m. baking, and didnt leave
until 10 p.m. because we had a private party.
in the morning and cooking at night, Pascal relies
on family recipes handed down from generation to
Among the standard French dishes on the La Dijonaise
menu are everything from escargots and Quiche Lorraine
to Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon.
What isnt standard are the prices.
Half a dozen escargots in a garlic butter sauce
are just $5.95. The Boeuf Bourguignon is just $9.95.
And there isnt a single entrée on the
menu for more than $16.
At those prices, La Dijonaise is attracting plenty
of regular folks looking for great French food.
We are doing especially well for lunch,
said Pascal of the 78-seat restaurant. We
get lots of neighborhood people people from
Sony, the Hayden Tract, the offices.
People always say, Youre so cheap,
Thanh added. They are surprised at how casual
it is and how often they can come by and still afford
La Dijonaise is open for breakfast (serving a wide
variety of croissants and pastries baked on the
premises), lunch and dinner (when it attracts a
large crowd from the Jazz Bakery and the Gascon
Theater next door).
While the restaurant has been a closely held secret
for those in the know, the word is getting out.
Los Angeles Magazine recently honored La
Dijonaise for serving the Best Croissant in
L.A. as part of its annual Best of LA
Weve been selling a lot more croissants
since then, Thanh said.
the success of the bakery, La Dijonaises stock
in trade is its unique offering of entrees inspired
by Pascals youth in the Dijon region of France.
Perhaps the best item on the menu is La Dijonaises
Poulet Dijon a wonderful grilled chicken
breast in a Dijon mustard sauce served with potatoes
and vegetables for just $8.95.
Thats definitely one of everyones
favorite dishes, Thanh said.
Of course, if youre not interested in French
cuisine, La Dijonaise performs equally well when
serving spinach lasagna, Greek salad or even a double
We have something for everyone, Thanh
Pascal says he is constantly fielding offers to
open another restaurant or expand, but hes
comfortable right where he is.
I have people ask me that once a week, but
Im not interested. Once you open another restaurant,
the quality is not the same anymore. We have a long
lease, so were going to be here for a long
Thats good news for anyone who likes French
food without the French prices.
Culver City People, September 2003